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Person accused of compoundable offence can be acquitted if a settlement is reached between the parties outside the court: High Court of Jharkhand

In a criminal trial where the offence in question is compoundable in nature, the accused person can be acquitted if both the parties are able to reach a settlement outside the court. This was held by a single member bench of the High Court of Jharkhand consisting of Justice Rajesh Kumar in the case of Rakesh Kumar v The State of Jharkhand [Cr. Revision No.107 of 2021] on 29th July 2021.

The petitioner, Rakesh Kumar was found guilty of dishonouring cheque under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act by the Sessions Judge at Jamshedpur on 26th June 2018 in C/1 Case No. 3055 of 2014. He was sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment of three months and to pay a fine of Rs. 3,00,000 for his offences. Out of this amount, Rs. 3,00,000 was to be paid to the complainant and Rs. 5,000 to the state. If there was any default in these payments, the petitioner would be made to endure six months of simple imprisonment. Aggrieved by this impugned judgement, the petitioner filed the present revision petition before the High Court of Jharkhand.

It was brought to the notice of the High Court that the matter was settled between the two parties outside the court and they had come to a compromise which was suitable to both parties. For this reason, the petitioner’s counsel submitted that the petitioner should be acquitted of the charges levied against him. The court noted that the offence which the petitioner was convicted of under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act was compoundable in nature. For this reason the Court noted that the submission made by the petitioner’s counsel had merit and seeing that the dispute has already been settled by the parties themselves, it would be suitable to compound the offence.

Justice Rajesh Kumar came to the conclusion that “Since both the parties have settled their dispute outside the court and as per Section 147 of the N.I. Act, the offence is compoundable in nature, hence the offence is compounded”. Accordingly it was held that “In view of the above facts and considering the provisions of law, the compromise is allowed and the judgment dated 17.08.2019, passed in Cr. Appeal No.167 of 2018 by the court of learned Sessions Judge, East Singhbhum at Jamshedpur and the judgment and order of sentence dated 26.06.2018 passed by the learned Judicial Magistrate, 1st Class, Jamshedpur, in C/1 Case No.3055 of 2014 (T.R. No.51 of 2018), are, hereby, quashed and set aside. The petitioner is acquitted of the offence under Section 138 of the N.I Act in terms of the compromise entered into between the parties” and the criminal revision was allowed.

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